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19th October 2022

Your bills need paying, but the government won’t pay theirs

Does this government actually know what governing means? If it does, it has a weird way of showing it
Your bills need paying, but the government won’t pay theirs
Photo: Images of Money @ Flickr

Earlier this month, the National Grid warned that if gas imports continue to run low, it could result in households facing blackouts of up to three hours this winter. Speaking at the Financial Times’ Energy Transition Summit this past week, Chief Executive John Pettigrew asserted this would only be likely on “those darkest evenings in January and February”.

Nonetheless, apocalyptic newspaper headlines evoked fears that we could be facing another ‘winter of discontent’ five decades on. As the war in Ukraine continues, there appears to be no end in sight for the current cost of living crisis, leaving morale amongst Britons is low.

Unease across the nation has been further exacerbated after Nadhim Zahawi MP told the BBC that the government has scrapped its planned energy use advice campaign due to its £15 million cost. We must ask why? When the country needs reassurance and support from its government the most, have they decided to shrug off responsibility yet again?

The deserted campaign was prepared by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It was even signed off by dominant Tory party player, Jacob Rees-Mogg. The strategy was ready to encourage and advise households on how to safely reduce their energy bills this winter. Sources have emerged claiming objections came from the PM’s office, with Ms Truss being ideologically opposed to the plan; deeming it too interventionist.

Ministers assert that the pulling of the campaign has nothing to do with government divisions. This is hard to believe, following Truss’ proclamation at the Conservative Party Conference: “I will not tell you what to do, or what to think or how to live your life”. The Prime Minister was clearly trying to mirror Thatcher’s famous individualist, small state rhetoric. As ministers assure us that the National Grid and Ofgem are planning on doing such work surrounding energy saving awareness, I cannot help but feel they simply do not want to commit to this job.

As such, citizens are relying on other avenues for support. Social media apps such as TikTok are flooded with tips on how to use less energy and reduce their bills, with the cost-of-living hashtag now surpassing 490 million views. Showering at the gym, charging devices at work, and budget recipe meals for families are just a few of the ideas pioneered by internet content creators wanting to help others navigate the worsening energy crisis.

Despite this resilient “Keep Calm and Carry On” sense of community emerging, levels of anxiety continue to rise. The House of Lords library recently released a report on the associations between the rising cost of living and a reduction in wellbeing. The report denotes that between March 2019 – March 2022, overall levels of happiness and satisfaction with one’s life has dropped by an average of approximately 5%. The pandemic has played a part in these dropping levels. However, this research clearly shows a significant dip in the most recent quarter of 2022.

A push came from within the party; at the PMQ’s when Conservative MP Guy Opperman urged the PM to consider a nationwide mailout campaign to communicate what the government plans on doing. Opperman has also publicly stated that “not engaging with public expenditure on this issue is simply wrong.” Truss and her closest ministers continue to assert that the government will “not be in the business of telling people how to live their lives”. However, Truss concluded that Rees-Mogg will be working with energy companies and individuals to use energy more efficiently.

But still, Prime Minister Liz Truss remains at the best of times completely out of her depth. Is she genuinely “afraid of her own shadow”, as suggested by leader of the opposition Keir Starmer this Monday during an urgent question in the commons?

I would like to be hopeful that perhaps there is something in the works to put us at ease and support us as a nation, but I remain doubtful. Truss and her government will likely continue to leave the work to someone else, under the guise of her ‘free conservatism’.

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